The developers behind the proposed Botley West Solar Farm will “review” plans after an Oxford college pulled out.

Merton College said last week that its Hall Farm site in Begbroke will not be used.

The college said it now "plans to plant extensive wildflower meadows along with nectar and pollen rich species to support insects" across the farm as a key part of its sustainability strategy.

Witney Gazette:

A statement on the college website explains: "Following further early-stage discussions, we have decided to continue with our existing approach to sustainability and biodiversity for our land at Begbroke, rather than including some of our land for consideration in the Botley West Solar Farm Project.

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"At this stage in our sustainability programme, we would like to give our existing strategy further opportunity to evolve, before making any long-term commitments for the land.

"We can then take the time to judge the current strategy’s success and explore any opportunities to evolve this at a later stage."

It said the case for renewable energy "is very strong and does align with our broader sustainability objectives, given the importance of solar power both as a tool to deliver net zero, and also as a contributor to UK energy security".

But added: "We were not the applicant, nor the developer behind the Botley West project, and our land holdings equated to around only 5 per cent of the total site area.

Witney Gazette:

"We will continue to engage closely with all our partners to deliver long-term sustainability and biodiversity at Hall Farm, in line with our vision."

The controversial solar farm could span three sites - north of Woodstock, west of Kidlington and west of Botley.

Its many critics say the farm on 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) will blight communities and destroy agricultural land.

Botley West Solar Farm developers PVDP confirmed that land owned by Merton College "which previously made up a small part of the site on which we are proposing to develop Botley West Solar Farm,  is no longer available to us". 

It said: "In light of this change, we will use this opportunity to review our proposals for the scheme.

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"This does not affect the viability of the project. 

"We remain committed to developing a scheme that could deliver approximately 840MW of renewable energy and make a significant contribution towards delivering energy security for the UK and achieving net zero targets. 

"When we have reviewed our proposals, we will hold a second stage of consultation, the details of which will be confirmed shortly."

PVDP said anyone with an interest in the project should register their details with them so they can provide information about future engagement and consultation activity as soon as it becomes available.  

The Stop Botley West campaign has welcomed the decision of Merton College to pull out of the scheme.

Karen Squibb-Williams, co-chair of the Stop Botley West campaign said: "From the moment residents from 15 Oxfordshire villages heard about this gigantic project covering enormous swathes of Oxfordshire’s Greenbelt, people have been calling out for the majority landowners, Merton College and Blenheim Estates to listen to the people who will be really affected.

"This includes urging the landowners to carry out due diligence into the background and credibility of the developer.

"Merton has done exactly that and decided to distance themselves from this greenwashing project.

"They must be highly commended for taking this brave step which shows integrity on behalf of the Fellows.

"Although the campaign is delighted with this outcome, Merton College are staying coy as to what it is they discovered during deeper research into the project and are claiming they are “continuing our existing approach to sustainability and biodiversity, rather than including some of our land for consideration in the Botley West Solar Farm project.”